Why this Underused, Potent and Refreshing Flu Herb is so Special and How to Use It
Why this Underused, Potent and Refreshing Flu Herb is so Special and How to Use It

A beautifully fresh and aromatic culinary herb, it has been in use on the Asian sub-continent for thousands of years. In Sri Lanka and East India it is used to make “fever grass tea”, a herbal remedy to reduce a fever and alleviate cough and cold symptoms. Hint, hint!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Lemongrass belongs to the category of herbs that “warm the interior and expel cold and dampness”. It is used for headaches, stomach aches, cramps and rheumatic pains. In the Caribbean and South America it remains one of the most popular herbs to treat digestive problems and nervous system disorders.

Central Nervous System

Lemongrass is a “nervine” – a herb that specifically supports the nervous system to combat symptoms of stress and anxiety. It lowers levels of stress hormones and acts as a tonic for frazzled nerves, making it beneficial in the treatment of various nervous disorders such as vertigo and uncontrollable shaking. The calming properties of Lemongrass make it very helpful in promoting a good night’s sleep, especially where stress and anxiety are the cause of sleepless nights. It helps to soothe the mind and body by inducing the release of serotonin, the pre-cursor to the sleep hormone melatonin. One study published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine” found that when subjects were exposed to a situation that caused anxiety, the group who were exposed to the scent of Lemongrass essential oil experienced a significant decrease in anxiety immediately after treatment. A cup of Lemongrass tea or diffusing the essential oil in your bedroom can help you to relax and wind down in readiness for sleep.

Digestive System Support

Used for thousands of years in ancient medicinal systems as a digestive aid, Lemongrass contains the compound citral which enhances nutrient absorption and helps to maintain healthy metabolism. The antioxidants present in this herb support a healthy environment for good bacteria to thrive in the gut by preventing the growth of yeast and other bad bacteria.

The strong anti-microbial and antibacterial properties of Lemongrass are also helpful in fighting stomach disorders caused by various pathogens. One study found that Lemongrass leaves can help to protect the stomach lining from damage by aspirin and alcohol – a common cause of gastric ulcers.

Fever Reducer/Immune Boosting

Lemongrass has been used for millennia as a fever reducer in its native countries. It is classed as a “febrifuge” – a medicine to reduce fever – and has an anti-pyretic and diaphoretic effect, meaning it helps to break a fever that has run to dangerously high temperatures by inducing sweating.

The natural immune boosting qualities of Lemongrass are attributed to its ability to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body, which can contribute to illness.

Diffusing Lemongrass essential oil in an oil burner has also been found to combat airborne viruses that can cause the common cold and flu.

Type II Diabetes

The high citral content of Lemongrass is responsible for its many benefits; it helps to maintain healthy insulin levels in the body, thus supporting better glucose tolerance. A 2007 study published in the “Journal of Ethnopharmacology” found that taking Lemongrass daily improved fasting glucose levels, cholesterol levels and led to lower triglyceride levels. The study concluded that more research is needed but advised caution to those taking diabetes medication to consult their doctor before consuming high amounts of this herb.

Skin Infections

Because of its powerful anti-microbial, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, Lemongrass essential oil (diluted in a carrier oil) has been proven effective in the treatment of conditions such as; athlete’s foot, ringworm, scabies and yeast infections. Studies have shown that the properties of Lemongrass inhibit the growth of pathogens, and that the key compound citral is effective at reducing fungal infections  – especially those caused by the Candida albicans fungus.

Skin Health

Lemongrass has a long history as a natural ingredient for skincare. Its antiseptic and astringent properties make it ideal for use as a natural cleanser and toner, sterilising and toning up the pores whilst strengthening the skin. Its diuretic properties can reduce puffy skin and cellulite when the oil is diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the affected area.

Healthy Weight Loss

Lemongrass contains polyphenolic compounds that work to stimulate metabolism, allowing the body to burn fat more efficiently whilst boosting energy levels. It is also a natural diuretic that will help the body flush out excess water, eliminating excess fluid retention whilst gently detoxifying the liver and kidneys.

Its star compound, citral, has been found to be effective in combating obesity, preventing the accumulation of abdominal fat and promoting the use of stored energy. Replacing caffeine laden beverages with a cup of refreshing Lemongrass tea can go a long way as part of a healthy weight loss plan.

Sounds amazing, but how do I use it?

Firstly, find the freshest lemongrass you can. Strip off the outer, drier leaves, to reveal the more tender inner heart (unless it has already been manicured). From the root end, cut off 1.5 to 2cm which is less succulent and rigid. From the grass like end, you will probably want to cut 2 or more inches off, as this component is too fibrousy. Everything you have cut off however, is not wasted, and can be made into a sublime tea or used to flavour a stock or broth. When you have finished grooming, simply finely slice into little circles and further dice down if needed. At this point you can add to all manner of different cuisines and recipes. Keep reading for my favourite though.

Using lemongrass

Learning how to make an authentic, medicinal Thai paste comprised of fresh green herbs and spices was a gamechanger for my relationship with lemongrass. Why an authentic Thai paste? Because one of the primary ingredients used to make it is lemongrass, indeed, it is probably the most classic of all lemongrass recipes. You can use this paste to easily make a Thai curry, or more generally to pair with vegetable dishes or rice noodles/rice/quinoa recipes. On top of this, the paste is an incredible and potent fusion of some very acclaimed medicinal allies.

How to make Thai Green Curry Paste?

Combine 1 and a 1/2 Tbsp of chopped green chillies, 1 Tbsp of roughly chopped garlic, 1/2 cup of peeled ginger, 1 cup of chopped coriander, 1/2 tsp of grated unwaxed/organic lemon peel, 1 Tbsp dried coriander leaf powder, 1 Tbsp of cumin seeds, 1/2 cup of chopped lemongrass, sea salt and pepper to taste. You can still make without the mentioned dry ingredients just fine though. Now add  ¼ cup of pure water to this and put all of these ingredients in a large pestle and mortar or (easier) into a blender. Pulverise or blend it well. Enjoy immediately intermixed into your fave recipes or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for daily consumption.

Kyle Author